A retired Police Inspector has been given an MBE for his services to community policing.
Mark Watson, 56, from Sandbach, joined Cheshire Constabulary in 1982 and retired at the rank of Inspector as Head of Equality, Diversity and Human Rights in 2012. Since then he has continued to work voluntarily for the force supporting work relating to Gypsy, Roma and Traveller issues.
He also works part time as the coordinator of Cheshire Crimebeat, a charity which awards grants to young people for crime prevention and citizenship projects.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it when I opened the letter. The envelope looked like it was a tax letter from HMRC. Never for a minute did I believe anything like this could happen and I’m delighted.”
As well as working in Cheshire with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) community Mark has been involved in national bodies to promote equality. He is a member of the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC) Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Working Group and also a trustee of the Traveller Movement charity.
He said: “We do have much more of an understanding of the community than when I started working with them in the early 2000s but it is a group of people which remain very much at arm’s length for most people.
“When I first started there were a couple of jobs which showed how far we needed to go – one was the eviction of an encampment in Middlewich which went wrong and the other was the murder of Johnny Delaney [a 15-year-old Irish Traveller who was beaten to death in Ellesmere Port in 2003].
“We didn’t know anything about the community Johnny came from and it was a real learning curve because we, as a police force, serve everyone. And to do that you need to understand all communities.”
In 2011 Mark was part of a group from the Traveller Movement who tried to enter a Wetherspoon’s pub in London but were refused entry. After almost four years, the charity won a landmark court case against the pub company which said that they had racially discriminated against Travellers.
Mark added: “We had been at a conference and a few people had decided to go for a drink at the end of the day but none of us were allowed in. They decided that we were all Travellers so we couldn’t come in.
“This kind of thing happens to people all the time unfortunately. I was in uniform and there was a human rights lawyer and a Catholic priest with us. Not the most rowdy group! The charity took Wetherspoon’s to court and won.”
Mark will receive his award at a Royal Investiture in the near future.
Gareth Wilson, Lead for the National Police Chief’s Council Diversity, Equality and Inclusion Committee, said: “Mark has worked tirelessly to support both the national committee and individual Force’s by providing advice and guidance relating to the Traveller community, his recognition in the Queen’s Birthday Honours is well deserved. The committee would like to add their congratulations and appreciation for all that he continues to do.”
David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “This is a fantastic achievement and one that is well deserved for Mark who has dedicated so many years of his life to serving the people of Cheshire and making it a safer place to live.
“His passion for community safety and his commitment to diversity has seen him carry-out some incredible work to tackle discrimination on a national level. He has continued this work well into his retirement and is now ensuring the younger generation play a significant role in preventing crime through his work with Cheshire Crimebeat.”
Chief Constable Darren Martland said: “The Constabulary is committed to policing our diverse communities in a fair and appropriate way. Mark has done a brilliant job of improving the force’s relationships with a number of groups but particularly the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller population.
“His passion and commitment to equality and diversity has seen him volunteer his time for a number of years after his retirement. This award is well deserved.”